Who’s Afraid of Democracy 101?

 Who’s afraid of democracy? I am.

I’m afraid to participate by peacefully protesting—because I don’t trust law enforcement officials to be ethical.

I’m afraid to take my family—especially my fifteen-year-old daughter (who would argue that she’s sixteen-in-a-month)—to Occupy Wall Street for a Saturday afternoon march.  

A mother, writer, teacher and activist, sometimes it feels like the multiple roles I play each day are multiple personalities—and there’s always at least one that doesn’t agree with the others.  

The educator in me interprets this as a teaching moment: Democracy 101—a field trip to teach critical thinking, reading and writing skills and empower young lives while directly participating in democracy. Here’s an opportunity for interdisciplinary, experiential education at its most meaningful!   

The activist in me wholeheartedly agrees and wants to make a protest sign, a pot of coffee, pack the car, grab the latest issue of Adbusters and drive “back” to New York City, once my home for eight years.

The writer in me makes a mental list of essentials for the trip: notebook, pens with ink that won’t run if wet, Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.   

The three want to team up and connect with other… I mean, I want to connect with other local parents and take a group of our politically-engaged teenagers to participate in Occupy Hartford. Surely I can trust the Hartford Police Department to not shove, mace, beat or arrest a dozen peaceful moms and teens?

But then I read how the Boston police arrested a legal observer and three medics who were part of Occupy Boston.

I am old enough to remember the Tompkins Square Park riots—when the park doubled as my front yard—and growing up in the shadow of the Kent State shootings, when two of the students killed weren’t even protesting, just walking to class.

The educator, activist and writer want to argue, “That could never happen now!” But they’re silent, thinking, trying to come up with something convincing.

Then I read about Ben Koatz, the high school senior arrested while marching with Occupy Wall Street. He told the Village Voice how he saw police beating protestors, adding, “I saw them punch a girl who couldn’t have been more than 16 or 17.”

The mother in me—who always has the last word in this quartet of voices—says, “Discussion OVER. We’ll watch the Revolution online.”